Cipriani axed after late night out ... for the first time
Neil Jenkins celebrates a famous Welsh win in Paris 1999 © Getty Images
Danny Cipriani was dropped from the England team for their Calcutta Cup clash against Scotland at Murrayfield for what the RFU termed "inappropriate behaviour". Cipriani, who was in line to make his first international start, was punished for being pictured leaving a London nightclub after midnight just two days before the game. A friend of Cipriani's told The Sun newspaper, "Danny's gutted. He only popped into the club to give a friend some tickets for the game. He didn't touch a drink all night." Cipriani eventually made his full debut at fly-half the following week against Ireland and produced a Man-of-theMatch performance to steer his side to a 33-10 victory at Twickenham. But his career was more stop than start and he continued to feature more prominently in the tabloids gossip sections than the sports ones.
Graham Henry's Welsh side began a ten-match winning run with a surprise 34-33 win against France, their first Paris triumph since 1975. The hero of the hour was Neil Jenkins with 19 points, despite missing with five kicks. "This was the biggest rugby occasion I've been involved in," Henry grinned. "To see their faces after the game was just a mint." Jean-Claude Skrela, the France coach, admitted the best side had won. "Our players did not have enough fear of the Welsh," he said. "However much our coaches said to them that Wales were our strongest opponents, I do not think our players truly believed us."
England beat Wales 17-7 at Twickenham but missed out on the Five Nations title because of their poor game against Ireland. England wing Mike Sleman, who scored for England, said of the win: "We won the first division title but lost the second division battle." Fly-half Les Cusworth had a bad end to the day. Surrounded by autograph hunters as he left the ground, he put down his bag, which contained his gear plus the match ball and Gareth Davies' shirt, to sign programmes and had it stolen.
Another great day for Wales as they won the Grand Slam with a 19-13 win over France in Cardiff, but it was a match that left the home fans exhausted as the French, who outscored the Welsh by two tries to one, were camped in the home side's 22 in the dying minutes. It took some heroic defence, epitomised by JPR Williams' last-minute crunching tackle to check French wing Jean-Francois Gourdon within feet of the line, to clinch the victory.
The cracks in England's World Cup-winning side really began to show as they suffered their first loss since beating Australia, and their first at Twickenham since 1999, ending a run off 22 straight victories. The man who did the damage was Ronan O'Gara who kicked Ireland to a 19-13 win. "It was always going to happen," reflected coach Clive Woodward. "But it's not nice. In fact it is pretty painful. I hate losing. I hate sitting here talking about losing. But Ireland deserved to win."
England beat Scotland in the last 20-a-side international at Kennington's Oval. From then on, the 15-a-side rules were the order of the day.
Ireland continued a period of dominance with their fifth straight win over England. Their skipper Tom Grace scored the only try of the match to give his team a 13-12 win at Twickenham after they trailed 9-0 at half time. It was the third defeat of the championship for England who went on to collect the wooden spoon with a drubbing in Paris.
Stuart Barnes, promoted ahead of Rob Andrew, brought a touch of razzmatazz to England's back-line, inspiring them to a 26-12 win over Scotland at Twickenham. "The day belonged to the little Napoleon on his perch," Brough Scott wrote of Barnes in the Sunday Times, but one person disagreed - Annie Underwood - "the country's proudest mother" who watched both sons Rory and Tony score tries.
Bob Hiller led Surrey to the County Championship in a 14-3 defeat of Gloucestershire at Kingsholm. Alastair McHarg was in typical form for the visitors, popping up in the loose to kick ahead and win the race for a try under the posts.
A then uncapped Jeff Butterfield showed his promise scoring two dashing tries for the Barbarians in their 9-3 victory in the Mobbs memorial match against the East Midlands.